The Buhlebezwe group is going an extra mile to ensure children don’t forget their culture and heritage.
Buhlebezwe, meaning “beauty of the nation”, was formed last year by a group of women in Malvern.
The group recruits Amatshitshi girls from the age of three.
Leader of the group Khululiwe Mbatha said they started the local group after one of the local girls, Shantel Nhavene (21), went to ukuhlolwa kwezintombi (virginity testing) in Voslorous.
Shantel’s mother said her daughter heard about the initiation from her peers at church and went to Vosloorus at the age of 12.
“Nhavene told other children about it. At first, we used to transport the girls to Vosloorus every now and then and we realised it is costly as we have to pay for their transport. Instead of sending all our children to Vosloorus we decided to start our own group this side, in Malvern,” said Shantel’s mother.
Buhlebezwe encourages children to abstain and it’s another way of taking the children off the streets and teach them about culture.
Mbatha said the group is not only for Zulu girls.
“The group is open to everyone. We also have Tsonga, Sotho and Xhosa girls. Virginity testing is common in the Zulu culture. It has been practised even when I was still growing up.
“Here we teach children to sing and dance to African music. Because this group only contain girls we also teach them how to cook and to ensure their safety,” she said.
Mbatha said the virginity testing helps a lot in a society where there is high crime rate.
She told the EXPRESS virginity testing also helps in cases where children get raped.
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“There was an instance with a child who was raped by her uncle. The child was very young and lived with her grandparents and uncles and the community didn’t know the child was raped. MamZulu (the woman who does virginity testing) is the one who saw the child was no longer a virgin. She became concerned due to the child’s young age and looked for people who lived with the child and spoke to them.
“She realised the child did not speak up because she was raped by her uncle who told her to keep quiet about the incident because he would kill her. The uncle was later arrested. It might be just culture to other people but it plays an important role in society,” said Mbatha.
The Buhlebezwe group also participated in the annual KwaZulu-Natal Reed Dance ceremony held on September 8.
The ceremony has been tirelessly celebrated by countless generations.
“Each maiden carried a reed from the river and presented it to the king in a spectacular procession at the Enyokeni Palace during the ceremony. The girls converge in groups from the Zululand regions on the king’s palace the day before the ceremony. The activity promotes purity among virgin girls and respect for women,” she said.
Mbatha said the Zulu Reed Dance ceremony is the key element of keeping young girls virgins until they are ready to get married.
Mbatha said residents support their group. The groups now consist of 30 local children.
“Most people did not understand the group at first because they did not have the knowledge. Some thought it was for Zulu people only but they now understand it better and they are bringing their children. The children practice twice a week and they usually go on camps but I would love to see the group with more children than we already have,” she said.
Nanta Mgqalelo said she joined the group as she wants to follow her culture and tradition.
“It’s a privilege to be part of this group. There are many issues beyond culture that we get to discuss with our group leader,” she said.
To join Buhlebezwe group contact Khululiwe Mbatha on 074 559 6059.